Corruption And Poverty In Mexico

09/01/2016 05:16 pm ET Updated Aug 30, 2017

Some days ago, a news article was almost overlooked. Mexico has managed to produce 55.3 million of poor people.

The newspapers published a study by the Coneval (The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy), 38.3 million out of the 55.3 million of Mexicans who are in poverty and endure social deprivation are found in the cities and 17 million in the countryside.

It is quite obvious to me why we did not pay attention to this news article. We have become accustomed to remaining immobile before so much poverty. We see it on the streets; it reaches our table at restaurants, but we have gotten used to saying 'No', and under its yoke, it gets out of our sight. In time, custom becomes tyranny, Flaubert said.

Where does this come from?

Mexico is a country that was inserted into the world economy through violence. Did you read about the Spanish conquest? A fire and blood invasion that turned the original inhabitants of this land into instruments at the service of the accumulation of merchandise in Europe. It seems this reality keeps repeating itself over and over again to this day, since it began about 500 years ago. Yesterday it was the Crown, nowadays it is a few millionaires here and there. Bullets against the ones that protest.

But for this not to sound like plain propaganda, let's have a look at some hard data.

According to Forbes, 15 millionaires dominate the country. This small group of people amass $148.5 billion, practically 13% of the total value of the Mexican economy. And they do it based on a system as old as feudalism: the exploitation of wage labor, whose most progressive facet is barely seen in the Industrial Revolution with the rent of workforce. Before, there were job positions, but now the work day is paid per hour and without social security as it is established in the Labor Reform. Or you, the one reading this, did they make you sign your resignation letter alongside your contract? Do you get paid by fees? Do you think you will have a peaceful retirement with your AFORE (pension plan)? Can you support yourself with just one job?

Over 55 million poor people and 15 millionaires...Coincidence?

Let's see:

Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, rules 80% of the landline telephone services in Mexico and 70% of the mobile ones, according to Moody's, the economy ratings researcher. Moreover, Emilio Azcárraga, the owner of Televisa, captures 80% of the media. At the same time, Germán Larrea and Alberto Bailleres (the latter recently awarded with the Belisario Domínguez medal) are the owners of all the mining sector with Grupo Minera México and Industrias Peñoles. And the same thing happens with construction markets, banking, food service and even with drugs, when in 2011, Forbes included the impoverished drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera "El Chapo" in the list of the wealthiest people in the country with a fortune of 1 billion dollars. One position above the owner of Banamex, Alfredo Harp Helú.

Then we see that the Coneval tells us there are 55 million poor people in the country, scattered across 1003 municipalities of the 2,400 in total. Taking into account that there are 122 million Mexicans, this accounts for 45% of the entire population, which means there are 3.66 million poor people for every millionaire in Mexico.

Let's repeat this:

Over 3.5 million people in poverty for each millionaire in Mexico.

The figure is scary on its own.

Or are we poor because we want to be?

There will be people who claim this is the case. That we are lazy, with little inventiveness, that 'change starts with oneself', that 'when there's a will there's a way', that we only need to 'give it all we've got'.

I think about my father who worked his fingers to the bone in an industrial workshop for 30 years, he paid his taxes, he put food on our table, he worked eight, then nine, then twelve hours, but we kept getting poorer and poorer. He swept the sidewalk every morning, he prayed, he was kind to others and still we couldn't afford meat. He was a role model of that which is called 'change begins with yourself', an example for any life coach. But it didn't work; where was the problem?

By the end of January, Transparency International assessed the member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and found Mexico was the most corrupt of all of its members.

Then it stated: 'Corruption is the most regressive tax in the country and a direct obstacle to the access to the most basic services for development: health, education, security, and justice. The control of corruption must be part of a strategy to reduce inequality in the country and to bring about economic growth.'

So, does that mean that those 15 millionaires didn't necessarily secure their wealth because they 'gave it all they've got'?

Oh, ok. What a relief. I thought my father did everything wrong. I came to think that you, I, and and the rest of those 55 million poor people are screwed because we are fools. That there is no crisis in Mexico. Now I see that it is simpler than that. I see that honesty does not make you a millionaire, that we have crossed the line of custom and we have reached tyranny. Whether it is because we have sponsored this system or because we keep fooling ourselves by pretending there's nothing going on in this country.